House Democrats are preparing to pass a bill backed by labor, as dozens of union members fill the statehouse to show their support. Debate on a bill which would require a "prevailing wage" on many taxpayer-funded construction projects for the state, counties, cities and school districts.
House Speaker Pat Murphy, a Democrat from Dubuque, is confident there are enough Democrats in the House who’ll vote for the bill. "We have 51 votes as of this morning," Murphy says. "And we worked on a compromise late into the night, actually early into the morning this morning."
The compromise would allow some city and county projects which cost less than $1.5 million to escape the "prevailing wage" requirement for construction workers on those projects. If the bill passes the House late tonight, as expected, Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs indicates the bill will be debated soon in the senate, although he’s not specifying how soon.
"It’s about making sure bidders don’t use the mechanism of pushing down wages or hiring independent contractors to avoid things like workers comp and unemployment comp and state withholding of taxes — that they don’t game the system, to win the bid, by bidding down the wages of middle-class, working families," Gronstal says.
Republicans oppose the bill, arguing it will increase the costs of public construction projects. House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha says Democrats are doing the bidding of unions. "It appears that today’s about some campaign paybacks and we’re going to make the taxpayer pay for it," Paulsen says.
The debate on the bill is expected to last at least eight hours, once it starts, but as of three o’clock it had not. Representative Lance Horbach, a Republican from Tama, argues the bill is bad for rural Iowa, as Horbach says only the "multi-million dollar contractors" can afford to pay the prevailing wage. "They’re making non-competitive my ‘mom and pop’ rural contractors and it’s even worse than that because my contractors buy their materials for my local projects locally," Horbach says. "So not only are my contractors harmed, incidentally harmed will be my lumber stores, my hardware stores."
As dozens of union members lobbied in person at the statehouse today, Republicans urged business groups to telephone and email legislators to urge a "no" vote on the bill.